One of the most unexpected developments of the year in pop so far must be the fact that PSY won’t go down in history as a one-hit wonder. No performer of a recent viral hit this side of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” seemed as destined to never again scale the heights of Billboard’s Hot 100 as the man behind the abominable “Gangnam Style” (the song and the dance).
Then something shocking happened on his way to the cut-out bin: PSY scored another hit. Alas, “Gentleman,” the slightly superior follow-up to “Gangnam Style” that sounds like it might morph into “Harlem Shake” at any second, could manage only one brief week in the Top 10, at No. 6, before plummeting to No. 26. So long, Psy! (We hope!)
Whether or not he ever manages to pull off another chart coup, PSY is already more successful than these 11 far-more-deserving-of-more-than-one-hit wonders. (For the purpose of this post, I’m defining a one-hit wonder as any act that hit the U.S. Top 10 with its first Top 40 single at least five years ago — which would disqualify recent candidates like Foster the People and Gotye — and never again made it into the Top 40.)
Gregory Abbott “Shake You Down” (No. 1, 1986) A decade before logging his lone hit, he was the 12-years-younger husband of Freda Payne, the singer of the 1970 No. 3 hit “Band of Gold,” who, unlike her ex, managed to eke out two more Top 40 singles (including the 1971 No. 12 Vietnam-protest hit “Bring the Boys Home.”)
Amii Stewart “Knock on Wood” (No. 1, 1979) I’ve always thought that the singer of my all-time favorite disco hit (and one of my Top 10 favorite covers) deserved at least one more claim to fame.
Amy Winehouse “Rehab” (No. 9, 2007) Speaking of talented women named Amy, it’s hard to believe that with all the great classic tracks on Winehouse’s breakout opus, 2006’s Back to Black, not one of them managed to climb higher than No. 77 — the peak position of “You Know I’m No Good” — on the Hot 100. At least her fellow countrymen, once again exhibiting far better music taste than the Yankees, were smart enough to send four more of them into the UK Top 40.
Jane Child “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” (No. 2, 1990) If you haven’t heard any of this Canadian’s other work — the rest of 1989’s Jane Child, 1993’s Here Not There, and 2002’s Surge — you are truly missing out on some incredible music. (Read more about it here.)
Love and Rockets “So Alive” (No. 3, 1989) Of all the British acts to land only one Top 10/Top 40 single in the ’80s, the trio that sneaked theirs in at the end of the decade was perhaps the most deserving of so many more. (Read more about it here.)
Tweet “Oops (Oh My)” (No. 7, 2002) The late ’90s and early ’00s introduced a number of female R&B singers who soared only once — Nicole, Sunshine Anderson, Truth Hurts — but anyone who has heard Tweet’s “Party 2nite” (which was turned into a Top 5 UK hit in 2006 by Booty Luv, whose cover was as dreadful as its moniker) knows why she’s the one who should have taken flight again.
Take That “Back for Good” (No. 7, 1995) Even more inexplicable than the lack of solo success in the U.S. for Take That member Robbie Williams is how one of the most successful boy bands in UK history, with 19 Top 10 singles there, managed to place only one of them on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Faith No More “Epic” (No. 9, 1989) The 25-year-old who guessed my age to be between 35 and 40 the other night totally redeemed himself when he showed me some of the songs on his iPod, and I spotted FNM’s shoulda-been-huge 1992 single “Midlife Crisis,” a No. 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart that hit No. 10 in the UK but failed to dent the Hot 100.
James Blunt “You’re Beautiful (No. 1, 2006) Despite Blunt’s talent, I can’t say I didn’t see it coming — or rather, not coming, if we’re talking about hit status for his failed (in the U.S.) follow-ups to “You’re Beautiful.” Sensitive male singer-songwriters haven’t been pop’s thing in decades, and indeed, three No. 1s later, Canadian Daniel Powter became another future one-hit wonder, never again charting after “Bad Day.” Two (good) days ago, though, my iPod shuffle landed on “1973” (Blunt’s 2007 single that peaked, interestingly, at No. 73 on the Hot 100) and convinced me not to count out Blunt just yet.
Joan Osborne “One of Us” (No. 4, 1995) Though I hated her only charting hit (which is why I’m posting the infinitely more deserving “Right Hand Man,” which flopped two singles later), I still consider Osborne to be one of the best things to come out of the mid-’90s Lilith Fair/Women in Confession Pop-Rock movement.
Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 U” (No. 1, 1990) Here’s another instance of a singer-songwriter’s only hit (with a song she didn’t write) not even grazing the surface of her talent, which is why I’m posting O’Connor’s non-charting (except in her native Ireland, where it reached No. 48) 2005 single “Marcus Garvey” instead.